The Osun State Commissioner for Political Affairs and Inter-governmental Relations, Honourable Taiwo Akeju has reacted to the recent ward congress of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. Akeju in this interview with journalists debuked the allegations levelled against the party by the members of The Osun Progressive (TOP) that the Congress committee did not follow the due process . Akeju said members of TOP were not sidelined in the build-up to the congress.
There were complaints by supporters of Aregbesola that they were sidelined in the build-up to the congress, what is your take on that?
We carried everybody along; there was no rancour or crisis in the build up to the congress and when the appeals committee comes around, we will see what the issues are. All what you heard before the congress was taken care of.
Despite this your claim that everything was fair, members of The Osun Progressives are saying that the congress did not hold in many wards. They said the state government and Governor Gboyega Oyetola’s group, Ilerioluwa, hijacked the forms. What is your reaction to this?
Nobody hijacked the congress. The exercise followed all the laid down rules. Some of us are experienced in party politics. In a presidential system of government, the governor of a state is the leader of the party and the congress committee came on the Friday preceding the congress and commenced work immediately. It is true that people obtained the form from our national secretariat in Abuja. It is no big deal that people went to Abuja to obtain the form. If you are interested in contesting any position in the party, getting the form is part of the process. But there was an advice by the national leadership of the APC that all the states should consider the option of consensus.
That in view of the election coming up in Osun, they advised that all of us should consider the consensus arrangement and when the congress committee came, there was a stakeholders’ meeting, which was attended by all the leaders of the party and all elected political office holders, where that suggestion by our national leadership was adopted.
Were members of TOP invited to the stakeholders meeting?
We invited everybody, no one was excluded and of course it was an open meeting. We said we wanted the congress to be hitch-free and everybody canvassed unity. All the past and present leaders of the party were there. It was the National Caretaker Committee that advised us to consider a consensus arrangement and that was what the meeting of elders of the APC considered at the stakeholders’ parley. Except for those that didn’t want to come, we invited everyone.
You said the advice of the national body to have consensus candidates guided the congress in Osun, but members of TOP and Aregbesola’s political family said they had already obtained forms. Do you think the consensus arrangement could still have been upheld under that circumstance?
There is no division in the party. You kept mentioning Aregbesola’s political family; all members of the APC belong to our leaders. Aregbesola is one of them. Many of those you call Aregbesola’s men participated in the congress in many local government areas. We noticed their presence and we did not exclude anyone. I don’t know why Lowo Adebiyi is saying that they were excluded. He is just trying to heat up the polity unnecessarily. If you buy a form, you are enriching the pocket of the party, because we will use the money for mobilisation and other things. There is unity in the party in Osun.
With the rancour that characterised the last ward congress in the state, will you say there is a rift between Aregbesola and his successor, Oyetola?
My answer is capital no. The rancour is created by the media. Nobody is fighting. The two men are not fighting. What will they be fighting for? They remain good brothers. No division between them. The situation is the same among followers of these two leaders……
But many supporters of Aregbesola are not part of this government?
That is not true. There are a lot of people who worked in Aregbesola’s cabinet and are still working with Oyetola now. Aregbesola is my brother from Ijesaland and I want the best for him and I also want the best for the state. With the benefit of hindsight that I have in this matter, the rancour is just an imaginary one.
But with the current tension created by the congress, are you saying members who feel aggrieved will still be interested in party goals?
Yes they are and nothing can change that resolve by all of us to return Oyetola to office next year.(Lowo) Adebiyi was at the meeting we held recently to strategise for the APC. Remember, he is the leader of TOP.
Your party is facing an election in less than one year and there are crises like this, are you not scared that the situation may result in a defeat?
We will not lose by the grace of God. We are going to win the election hands down. You will see the result. Look at what happened during the walk to celebrate the International Youth Day in Osun. The youth came out to march through the town in display of their support for Oyetola. The achievements of Oyetola as governor will speak for him. Oyetola is consolidating on what Aregbesola did.
With all these achievements that you have mentioned, are you saying the governor will return to office next year without the support of his predecessor’s loyalists?
I have not said that. I have always maintained that Aregbesola is my brother; I know his mind; I can read his mind. He is a progressive human being. Aregbesola is one of the people who created the system and he will be one of the people who will lead the campaign for Oyetola. Forget about all the noise. You will see by God’s grace, he will return.
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